Certainly everyone can benefit from contemplation of the divine in “the theater of God’s glory.” Our reflections there will highlight our finitude, our vulnerability, and our utter and complete dependence upon the creating and sustaining power of God. But the wilderness is even more than a theater; it’s a cathedral. And awareness of God’s holiness occurs only when we enter it with the right spirit.
The word cathedral comes from the Latin term for “chair,” cathedra. Traditionally, a cathedral is the sacred place where a church bishop has his chair of authority—his throne.
While church leaders are supposed to keep us mindful of our stewardship role in the created order, too often the trappings of modern life and our long-held prejudices and traditions hinder our capacity to hear the “still, small voice” of God in our urban churches. Even Elijah needed to go into the wilderness to hear it, because stressful human interactions had dulled his spiritual senses (1 Ki. 19).
For that reason, it’s important for us to preserve and treasure the cathedral of the wilderness where we can be reminded that God is on the throne and where His wordless revelation can still be clearly seen and valued. When attentive people enter a wilderness, they immediately recognize the signs that it is holy ground—a place where an autumn maple ablaze with color can have some of the same effects that Moses experienced in the flaming bush of his own wilderness encounter with God.